Case Study

Is it time? The future of aerial firefighting

The wildfire landscape is changing globally. Fire seasons are longer and the number of wildfires is increasing, larger in size and verocity. In many regions of the world, it is time to augment or diversify available aerial firefighting resources, increasing capacity and capability to meet future demand in wildfire control.

Aircraft used to fight wildfires as airtankers are generally converted from older model aircraft. Often these airframes have flown long hours over a period of decades in military or commercial use before being repurposed to airtankers, outfitted with special tanks to drop retardant, water or gel/foam on flames. Although aerial firefighters fly less hours than in their previous capacity, they are flown into more demanding scenarios, scenarios they were not originally designed to do. Continuously dropping low, unloading the weight of a payload, and climbing rapidly adds stress to the aircraft. It is natural for the metal components to start to wear after extended periods of use. Even the smallest fissure, unseen by the human eye, can lead to an incident. Modernizing fleets with the introduction of newer model airframes ensures airtankers aren’t grounded when needed most.

Conair is proactive in their response to the need to modernize fleets, keeping firetrucks in the sky when the call comes. The Dash 8-400 airtanker is the newest airtanker in the world. It performs significantly better than all other similar size airtankers, dropping 15.9 litres of retardant for every litre of fuel burned, more than double the retardant delivered for fuel burned by most large airtankers when calculated using a typical wildfire, for example 60,000 litres of retardant situated 110 km from an airbase. “With today’s increasing fuel costs, the Dash 8-400 airtanker offers customers the most fuel-efficient solution to their large airtanker needs. Less fuel means less operational costs, plus less emissions into our environment, with the Dash 8-400 producing 30% less emissions than airtankers of similar size.” says Jeff Berry, Director of Business Development at Conair.

The Dash 8-400 airtanker is sustainable and fuel efficient, but more importantly it is fast and effective. Holder of three ‘Time to Climb’ records, the aircraft responds with jet-like speed (360 knots), meaning a fast return from base to fire and back. The Dash 8-400 airtanker deploys from shorter runways (5,000’) positioned closer to where wildfires occur, translating into a faster initial attack. And the externally mounted 10,000 litre tank ensures the integrity of the airframe is not compromised, reducing the risk of structural fatigue while preserving the pressurized cabin.

The Dash 8-400 airtanker is the newest, most sustainable airtanker in the world today, fully supported by De Havilland, the OEM. “Few large airtankers in the world can boast this level of support.” says Jeff. “There are many Dash 8-400 aircraft in commercial operation today, offering a large supply of not only airframes for future conversion, but also inventory of parts. The Dash 8-400 airtanker provides government customers the security of knowing their fleet won’t be grounded when needed the most.”

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